Our bodies were not meant to be sitting for hours at a time. Having worked with many types of clients over the years, I have seen many people with postural changes due to sitting. When seated, the elbows are flexed, the hips are flexed and the knees are flexed. Having the muscles around a joint in a shorted or lengthened state repeatedly for prolonged periods of time eventually leads to changes in the length of the muscles around that joint. This leads to dysfunctional movement patterns and increased risk of injury.
Starting with position of the head, the spine is in cervical flexion. This makes the muscles on the anterior side of the neck shortened. The muscles responsible for internal rotation of the shoulder are also shortened. This leads to impaired shoulder function, especially with overhead movements. Often the upper traps become dominant and take over in movements where the mid back and lat muscles should be engaged. Common movement impairments include shoulder elevation and head lurching forward during pushing and pulling movement such as a push-up or row.
The abdominals are weakened and the hip flexors are shortened, causing poor activation of your lengthened gluteal muscles. The hamstrings are also shortened. These changes cause the “S” shape of the spine to disappear. The spine will then be more rounded at the shoulders and more flat at the low back. All of these can contribute to low back pain or possible injury to the low back.
Corrective exercise can help reverse some of these changes and improve movement over time. Corrective exercise programs should be started under supervision and should not cause pain. Here are some examples of corrective stretches and exercises to help these posture problems: